Eating lots of citrus fruits may lower the risk of ischemic stroke by as much as 19 percent in women, according to a new study. Ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain becomes blocked.
Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, red wine, and dark chocolate. The researchers found that a particular sub-type of flavonoid called flavanone, which are abundant in citrus fruits, seemed to have a protective effect against stroke.
Study participants’ main source of flavanones came from oranges and orange juice (82 percent), followed by grapefruit and grapefruit juice (14 percent). Women in the study who consumed the highest amount of flavanones had a lower risk of ischemic stroke when compared to women with the lowest intake.
The research, conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), was published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Stroke.
Kathryn M. Rexrode, MD, BWH Department of Medicine, and colleagues from the University of East Anglia, UK, and the University of Bari, Italy, studied 69,622 women using data from the Nurses’ Health Study. Following up with study participants over a 14-year period, the researchers were able to calculate flavonoid intake, as well as track the occurrence of stroke in the group.
Vitamin C and potassium contained in citrus fruits may also play a role, say researchers.
“I would certainly not recommend that anyone take flavanone supplements based on this research,” cautioned Rexrode. She went on to state what we all should know anyway — that a piece of citrus fruit is far better than commercial fruit juices containing added sugar and other ingredients. Also worth noting is that some citrus fruits, like the grapefruit, can have bad interactions with some prescription medications.
The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.
We must take this study with a grain of salt — or should I say a grain of sugar? Of course there are many factors that contribute to the risk of stroke and heart disease, and eating an orange a day is certainly not a cure all, as the researchers themselves point out. But a diet rich in fruits in vegetables, along with exercise, will go a long way toward your overall good health. And you’ll feel better, too.
Reaching for an orange or other piece of fruit in place of a junk snack sounds like a pretty good idea. Orange you glad?
More on American Heart Month:
- Just a Little Heart Attack (video)
- Tips for a Healthier Heart
- Broken Heart is Real, says Cardiologist
- New Heart for Man with Heart of Gold
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